GoLocalWorcester.com – Worcester Chamber Gets Behind Local Manufacturing – 10/8/13

Paige Pihl Buckley | GoLocalWorcester.com

Tim Murray is the President and CEO of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce.

The Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce announced a new Manufacturing Roundtable Initiative aimed at supporting local manufacturers and recruiting new business to the region. The roundtable will involve Chamber of Commerce member manufacturers from 31 cities, as well as its 5 affiliate partners.

“Manufacturing is about 17% of the employment base in Central Massachusetts,” said Tim Murray, President and CEO of the Worcester Chamber of Commerce and former Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor. “We want to bring in our manufacturers to better understand what their needs are, and to do what we can to support and advocate for them so we can maintain and support jobs.”

The manufacturing sector has been steadily recovering from the nationwide economic recession, said Murray, providing solid, middle-class jobs to Worcester County residents.

“Manufacturing had been in sharp decline from the end of World War II to quite recently, but manufacturing is starting to come back in the state” said Barry Bluestone, Founding Director of the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy.

According to data collected by the Dukakis Center, in 2007 there were 1089 manufacturing firms in Worcester County. These firms employed around 52,000 people, and had a total payroll of $2.6 billion. In 2010, the number of firms had dropped to 1,013 and employment had dropped to 35,200. Total payroll had fallen to $2.36 billion, not surprising given the state of the U.S. economy in 2010.

In 2012, the most recent year for which data is available, the number of manufacturing firms had continued to fall, but at a much slower rate. There were 955 firms in Worcester County, employing 33,700 individuals. Total payroll had climbed 2.4% to $2.42 billion.

“Making things has always been an important part of our economy and we have seen encouraging signs that manufacturing is making a resurgence in the region,” said Murray. “The Chamber intends to support that trend and our manufacturing base here in Central Massachusetts. Bringing companies together and understanding their needs is just the first step.”

Another key step, according to Murray, is advocacy.

“There are perceptions that sometimes exist among parents, guidance counselors, and teachers that manufacturing is a dark, dank factory from the 1960s, and that is no longer the reality,” he said. “Part of our mission is to make sure that any parent and guidance counselor, or mentor understands the tremendous opportunity for young people.”

“Manufacturing is starting to stabilize so we’ll have much slower declines in employment and a continued rise in payroll,” said Bluestone, “plus jobs opening up because of people retiring.”

The average median wage in manufacturing is $70,000, Murray said. Recent reports indicate that almost 100,000 employees will soon be aging out or retiring from manufacturing jobs, opening a significant number of opportunities to young people looking for work.

The roundtable will hold quarterly meeting, the first of which will be held on November 6,2013 at the Saint-Gobain Abrasives in Worcester, one of the region’s largest manufacturers.

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